There’s been a lot of buzz about the newly released comScore study, which reveals that overall email usage is down 8%. In particular, it has decreased 59% among teens, 18% among 25-34 year olds, and 10% among the 35-54 set.
Media consumption is moving, especially among the youth demographic.
On the surface, the reasons seem obvious: Media consumption is moving (and clearly has already moved) to social media and mobile/text platforms, especially among the youth demographics. I’ve seen this firsthand with my tween nieces — they rarely use email, but they live on Facebook and have phones attached to their hands in non-stop texting frenzies (sometimes with each other).
Clearly, the customers of tomorrow will not be email-centric, but what about the rest of us? Is the decline in email usage based on changing communication patterns, or is there something larger at work here?
Email overload is part of the problem.
Email marketing can be a very efficient and profitable tactic, which is why it became so overused in the first place. The amount of email I receive at my business and personal accounts is over the top, and that does not even count the junk that gets caught in the spam filters.
A cursory and admittedly non-scientific overview of my work inbox reveals that every day I get at least five webcast invites, a number of SEO pitches from website optimization gurus and a seemingly endless supply of offers to rent lists — medical!, real estate!, dentists! — so that I, too, can be a spammer.
On the personal front, I get daily emails from every online retailer I’ve ever done business with. I like Omaha Steaks, but I don’t need to order every week. Ditto to 1-800-Flowers and LL Bean. The cost of sending an email is so cheap that marketers feel there is little downside to the continuous barrage of campaigns. But there is: It’s this very approach that’s responsible for making customers immune to their messages. How many email messages are deleted without being opened? Eighty to 85%? Maybe more.
What’s the damage to the brand when it’s seen as clogging a customer’s inbox? And as more and more people use their smartphone as their primary email reader, the tolerance for unwanted messages will only decrease.
Marketers are going to have to rethink their email strategy.
The medium has matured and consumers are migrating to other platforms. It may be time to cut back on the amount of email sent and increase the quality of what is being transmitted. Here are a few ideas:
- Add some meaningful and useful content.
- Better integration with social platforms is also a viable strategy — and one that’s interactive.
- The targeting could be narrower, based on search interest and past buying behavior.
- In some cases it may be worth retracing past steps by considering direct mail and catalogs. The real-world mailbox is a lot emptier these days, while the virtual one is bursting at the seams.
Your customer database is one of your most valuable possessions; don’t treat it like a rented mule.